Fast Food in Paris
Really? Isn’t Paris the anti-fast-food location par excellence?
It turns out that Paris is not immune to the influence of ever increasing numbers of tourists, or the onslaught of fads imported from elsewhere. The post office and other official sanctums may still honor the ages- old two hour French lunch, but fast food is rapidly increasing in availability. Mcdonald’s is everywhere in Paris that tourists congregate, although the Golden Arches are sometimes discreetly hidden in upscale areas such as the Champs Elysees.
Over the last few years, we have been aware of the McDonalds on a major corner in our district – at Boulevard St Michel and rue Gay-Lussac. This McDonald’s is poised at the cutting edge, with robot machines to use in ordering food visible from the street. On an opposite corner was a distinctly French burger joint offering essentially the same menu and traditional counter service. We were dismayed this year to discover that the French burgers have disappeared. In their place, a Burger King outlet is being prepared. It seems excessive and disappointing to witness an American burger war on a hallowed corner of two major Parisian arteries.
While on one of our shopping expeditions a week ago, we had decided to eat lunch in the department store we were exploring, Bazaar de l’Hotel de Ville (BHV Marais). Several restaurants were offered, including an attractive space called “Le Grand Fernand.” This turned out to be a gourmet burger joint, with exceptionally delicious grass fed beef – a worthy French adaption of a perennially successful restaurant idea.
Since I’ve basically been grounded for the moment with my infected toe, Nancy and I have felt it was time to explore food delivery in Paris. Apparently, as recently as two years ago, this was essentially non-existent, but” Uber Eats” has opened wide the field. Several companies are competing to offer food service, delivering international fast foods based on the cuisines of many countries – Japan, China, Vietnam, India, Thailand, Italy, Turkey, Lebanon, North Africa, and of course United States. Paris has enormous populations of immigrants from all over the former French empire. In addition, tourists flock here from the US and – now, most recently – from China.
We decided tonight we would order from Le Grand Fernand (I assume named for Ferdinand the Bull?) , and to ask Uber Eats to deliver it.
Uber has suddenly, in the past year or so, become extremely popular in Paris, as has Airbnb. Last year, it was hotly controversial. This year it is everywhere – and very useful. We have generally taken city buses to most of our destinations. However, there have been moments when Uber has been extremely helpful. For instance, when we went to the theatre in Nanterre, after our adventure following the underground maze, we found ourselves on a suburban street outside the rapid transit station, with no indications at all of how to get from there to the theatre, and no human beings anywhere. The station had been automated (no humans around), and it was Sunday afternoon, with all visible stores closed. It felt vaguely as if we had landed on an alien planet, with twenty minutes before curtain time at a theatre somewhere within a 10-15 minute drive. We waited, hoping a human whom we could ask might come into view – no luck. So we called Uber, and in two minutes a car pulled up. The driver knew exactly how to get to the national theatre in the shortest possible time, and we got there in plenty of time for our play. Coming back, we followed a bunch of other theatre goers to the city bus that connected with the RER, and climbed aboard. However, after we got back to Paris and tried to orient ourselves late in the evening on streets that were becoming deserted, we didn’t know where the nearest bus stop was, and there were no taxis coming by. Again Uber came to the rescue.
Unfortunately, Paris, like London and New York, is feeling constrained to somehow regulate (meaning to tax) the booming “sharing economy.” Our favorite Paris apartment, which we found through Airbnb, may no longer be available next fall for this reason. And now that we’ve experienced its many advantages, we’ll be very disappointed if Uber also, as is happening in London, gets cut off. Meanwhile, our “Uber Eats” delivery is arriving momentarily. We’re anticipating enjoying a “bon appetit.”
P.S. I love this company’s sense of humor…
(This was the place we visited where the supply closet was labeled “Acces Piscine” — “Way to the Pool.” )
Our food came complete with “rince- coude” towelettes, complete with visual instructions for opening the packet, shaking out the towelette, and producing shiny clean ….. elbows! And I loved the French twist on the burger/ fries menu — fries complete with garnishment of parsley and herbes de Provence — Gourmet all the way!